Knowledge for Development

Related developments

Researchers crack genetic codes for medicinal plant species

Researchers from across Canada, led by the University of Calgary's Dr. Peter Facchini and Dr. Vincent Martin of Concordia University in Montréal, have identified the genetic makeup for 75 medicinal plant species and are making the codes available to scientists and the public on-line. The genetic blueprints have potential applications in the pharmaceutical, natural health product, food and chemical industries. Plants contain specialized enzymes encoded by their unique genes that make them effective producers of medicines, flavours, fragrances, pigment, insecticides and other chemicals. The PhytoMetaSyn Project (Synthetic Biosystems for the Production of High Value Plant Metabolites) which started in 2009 is expected to have the entire set of genetic codes available by February 2012 (half the set is already available, and codes are added as they become available). (Eurekalert, 14/9/2011)


Crop Wild Relatives and Climate Change

This resource is being developed by the project ‘Adapting agriculture to climate change: collecting, protecting and preparing crop wild relatives’. This Project is led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, and is supported by the Government of Norway. It is being implemented through partnerships with national and international crop conservation and use programmes, universities and other research institutions, and in accordance with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Many individual scientists, herbaria, genebanks and specialist institutes are contributing advice and information to the Project and this website. The Project aims to collect the wild relatives of 26 key crops, conserve them in genebanks, and prepare them for use in plant breeding programmes in time to breed new crop varieties adapted to new climates.


An analgesic molecule discovered in its natural state in Africa

A team of researchers led by Michel De Waard, Inserm Research Director at the Grenoble Institute of Neurosciences, France, has discovered that an African medicinal plant, widely used in Cameroon, produces large quantities of molecules with analgesic properties. Analysis has shown that the molecule is identical to Tramadol, a wholly synthetic medication that is used world-wide as a painkiller. According to the research team, this is the first time ever that a synthetic medication produced by the pharmaceutical industry has been discovered in strong concentrations in a natural source.  (INSERM, 25/09/2013)


Studies confirm breadfruit's ability to repel insects

Scientists at the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and their collaborators at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada have found that breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis – a household crop grown across the Pacific, is an effective insect repellent. They identified three compounds – capric, undecanoic and lauric acids, which are saturated fatty acids – found to be significantly more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. ARS, 15/11/2013)


Commercial substances obtained from native plants

Researchers at the Mexican Scientific Research Center of Yucatan (CICY) studied 20 native species forexploration, recollection, characterisation and conservation of native herbs in the region. . They built a pilot distillation kit to obtain essential oils from plants and to do bioactivity tests and product development. In this publication, Luz Maria del Carmen Calvo Irabién, head of research, explains that the essential oil from Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) has potential in the agroindustry and that basil bush (Ocium campechianum) has antioxidant, antimicrobial and antifungal properties and high concentrations of eugenol, an aromatic agent widely used in the cosmetic and fragrance industry.   Note: For example, science competition winner Stella Kabiri-Marial demonstrated that invasive Cymbopogon afronardus (Stapf) could be used as a natural insecticide. K4D has recently also highlighted the pioneering work of Ameenah Gurib-Fakim on novel plant bio-resources.   (AlphaGalileo, 19/06/2014)